I've only been in Los Angeles for about a year and a half but I've learned that June in L.A. means two things: the supposed "June gloom" and TV crazyness with Emmy season, with all sorts of events set up around town to showcase certain series' for those crucial Emmy votes. Last night I was invited to one of these showcases, but it was far from your ordinary event since it was for the tremendously-acclaimed series Battlestar Galactica, a series that many call the best series on television (cable AND network) and a series that even some proclaim the best series of all time. Most of these events feature the producers and select cast members discussing the show and taking fans' questions and showing clips from the series (sort of like a mini Comic-Con panel, if you will). This Battlestar Galactica event had all those things, with creators/executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, stars Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos, but the event had something else that really speaks volumes of the power and impact of this show.
The show screened the series finale this past March in New York City... at the United Nations. "It was kind of surreal for a TV show to come to a far more important organization," said Dave Howe, the president of the Sci Fi Network that aired the series. The United Nations' Department of Public Information invited the show to "host a dialogue around the importance of the incredibly important and incredibly topical issues that this show has never shied away from," said Howe. So, for this event in Hollywood, two officials from the United Nations joined the creative forces of the show to continue said dialogue on the West Coast. The night was filled with rather interesting comparisons between the show and the issues that the United Nations representatives deal with on a daily basis, and how the U.N. has embraced the show because of its viewpoints that are subtly ingrained into this incredible sci-fi world that viewers have enjoyed for the past four seasons of the show. It was really quite compelling to see these comparisons being made from events in the show and events we've lived through like 9/11 and the war in Iraq, which prompted some fairly humorous debate on whether or not Osama bin Laden should've been "air-locked" or not. So say we all, indeed...
After hearing about these political views and the United Nations' becoming involved with the show, along with hearing from the entire panel and everyone's viewpoints on certain aspects of the show, the event moved forward and talked about how Battlestar Galactica is moving forward. Even though the series is off the air, there is still plenty of BSG for the fans to enjoy in the coming months, starting with Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, a new TV movie that shows how the Cylons came to overtake the humans, which was directed by Edward James Olmos. After watching an extended preview of the movie (which was pretty damn awesome), Olmos didn't shy away from talking about this upcoming TV movie, which is set to debut on Sci Fi this September.
"I gotta tell you, not to give anything away, it is exactly what you think it is," Olmos said. "You see the complete opposite of the first 281 days of what we went through, ... seen through the eyes of the Cylons, and it is breathtaking. It's fantastic. It's not fun, but I will say that you will sit there [gasping]."
"After you see The Plan, you will go back to see the series again," Olmos said. "I couldn't have imagined this kind of a situation happening at the end of a show, where you would actually start at the beginning. That's a masterful piece of understanding, Ron [Moore] is a genius. Because after you see The Plan, you'll want to go back and view the whole series again."
Olmos also praised the TV film's writer, Jane Espenson, along with the star of the movie, Dean Stockwell.
"All I can tell you is it's an extraordinary look at the Cylons, how they masterminded what they did," Olmos said. "I have to tell you right now, Dean Stockwell is a brilliant artist. He does a magnificent job of leading The Plan. The Plan is exactly that. It was how they planned to do what they did and what happened. It was monumental."
Olmos also talked about a much longer extended version of The Plan that will be available on DVD sometime after the initial TV airing.
"If you see it on DVD, it will be a big difference than what you see on TV," Olmos stated. "For instance, The Plan is two hours and six minutes long, the way they have it on the DVD. When you see it air, it's going to be 88 minutes."
After hearing about The Plan, and a very nice tribute to the writers that were in attendance and director Michael Rymer, who directed several episodes during the series' run, the night came to a close with the fans getting a chance to ask some questions of this talented panel. Here are all the questions that came from the fans below.
Ron, you said you tried not to make it too obvious, with the specific headlines you were trying to work into the political context of the show. I was wondering if there was ever a time where you were inspired by something that maybe you wanted to work into the show, but it didn't work?
Ronald D. Moore: There was, I'm trying to think. There were things on the writers' boards that they would try to work into the series periodically, and I'm sort of groping for something I can't quite think of. The answer is yes, and I can't remember any specifics, but there were some various story ideas that were touted about here and there, because we realized there was something in the headlines that we could use or do a spin on a theme. There were a couple of them that just sort of fell out, over the course of time.
Mr. Olmos, in the beginning your character asks in a speech that he gives, whether or not if humanity deserves to survive. I was wondering if you felt that question was answered by your character in the series and I'm curious what you think about our humanity?
Edward James Olmos: That is the question, isn't it? Do we really deserve to be here? Ask the polar bear or ask the wolf or ask the animals that are being decimated if we really deserve to be here. If they could answer, I don't know. In the show, I had a real hard time with it. I don't think I ever answered it. I just think that, at the end, just gave up. I was very grateful for when Starbuck took us to this new place and we landed, or whatever that was, this rock that looked like some place we could go to, only to find out that I didn't' get there, Laura and I never got there together. We got there, but as soon as we were there, she passed away. But you tell me: do we deserve to be here? I think we really do because I really believe we're here to help, but some of us don't understand that, so if you can help, please do.
In the future, and this is more of a speculative question, but if we get A.I., will it necessarily be this conflict-driven A.I. that makes this television show so popular? If it's not, then what do we do with them?
Ronald D. Moore: Well, I think that's the question we all sort of face, and one that we'll probably face sooner than we'd like to talk about. Classic science fiction is that the machines rise up against us and that's part of our story and part of other tales in the genre and the more profound question may well be, 'Well, what if they don't rise against us?' What does that do to us and what does that mean to us? What does it mean to look at something that may not have a bi-petal form. If we don't create robots that look like us, and you look at a blank wall of computers and somewhere within those hard drives is something that thinks, something that feels and something that has all the definition of a person that you and I have accepted as being a person, what do we do with that? How do we feel about that and what does that do to our sense of identity of self in the universe? I have no idea what the answer to that question is, but that question may well face us within our lifetime so we could well deal with that at some point. How we answer that question may be one of the defining moments of mankind, so I don't know, but I sense it looms out there.
Mary, Laura Roslin is one of the strongest female characters on television in the last 20 years and, for a sci-fi show, it has a very large female audience. What's it been like for you to be, in a way, a role model for younger women?
Mary McDonnell: It's been a privilege, it's been a great responsibility and it's been very controversial because the timing of Laura Roslin's presidency, as you all know, was mirroring the Democratic primary where Hillary Clinton was running. I was getting a lot of mail and a lot of questions and a lot of hope sent my way that I could expect the character of Laura Roslin or play her in a certain way or have her be a certain kind of president that younger women and middle-aged women were projecting, hopefully onto Hillary or whoever will be our first woman president some day. I was in a very interesting position to answer to them and say the humanity that I'm playing and the choices that I'm making were ideal choices for a first female president. It's taught me a lot and it deepens my responsibility to younger women who have been brought into this new generation. I was raised as a girl who was told that she could do whatever she wanted, but I didn't quite believe it, but now I do.
That about wraps up the amazing night with some of the folks that brought the amazing series Battlestar Galactica to life. It's also worth noting that the series will come to a close on DVD with Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 being released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 28 and the massive 25-disc set of Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series will also be available on DVD and a 20-disc Blu-ray set on the 28th as well. That's all from Hollywood folks. Take it frakkin easy! Peace in. Gallagher out!